New 10-year road map to promote technology adoption in Singapore's legal industry

The ministry will also explore the possibility of a cloud-based platform for legal technology. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The legal industry is getting a leg-up in harnessing technology under a new 10-year plan that will see greater support for law firms adopting it and more opportunities for law students to learn digital skills.

The Legal Industry Technology and Innovation Roadmap (TIR) was launched by Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong at TechLaw.Fest, an annual conference on law and technology, on Friday (Oct 2).

It sets out plans by the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) to promote innovation, technology adoption and development in Singapore's legal industry for the next decade.

These include working with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and industry partners to develop a plan that helps law firms assess their digital readiness and identify technology they can adopt.

The ministry will also explore the possibility of a cloud-based platform for legal technology, which will help law firms find the right software for their needs, among other things.

Legal technology, or legaltech, refers to the use of technology and software that increase the productivity of legal service providers and help consumers access legal expertise.

In-house lawyers can look forward to upcoming initiatives to support them in their initial adoption of legaltech, such as tools to restructure their workflow. Details of these initiatives will be revealed next year.

Law firms seeking to use artificial intelligence (AI) in their operations will be able to rely on an upcoming guide by IMDA and the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities, a research institute at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, supported by MinLaw.

The guide, which aims to help organisations using AI, will complement an existing framework by the IMDA and Personal Data Protection Commission on how to deploy AI responsibly.

As part of plans to make Singapore a leading global legaltech hub, MinLaw will be working with the Economic Development Board and Enterprise Singapore to attract global law practices and legaltech firms to establish operations in Singapore.

Other initiatives outlined in the road map include enabling qualified lawyers to count legaltech upskilling programmes as part of their continuing professional development.

Law schools are also encouraged to further infuse technology into their curriculum in order to better equip graduates with relevant digital skills.

Currently, law undergraduates from National University of Singapore can choose to take a minor in business analytics, computer science or information systems. The Singapore Management University has also recently launched a new Bachelor of Science (Computing and Law) degree.

In a press statement on Friday, MinLaw said that the TIR is the result of ongoing engagement efforts.

This included a series of workshops facilitated in 2019 by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, which saw 90 individuals from 52 organisations in the legal sector and related industries participating.

The TIR comes after two initiatives were previously introduced to help Singapore law firms embrace technology.

Tech Start for Law was launched by MinLaw, the Law Society of Singapore and the then Spring Singapore in 2017. It ended in 2018.

The scheme provided $2.8 million in funding support for law firms to adopt baseline technology solutions, such as tools for document management that let lawyers perform daily tasks more efficiently.

The second, Tech-celerate for Law, was introduced last year to cover part of the first-year cost of adopting baseline and advanced technology solutions by law firms. The programme, which involves $3.68 million in funding support, has been extended to January next year.

On Friday, Mr Tong, who is also Culture, Community and Youth Minister, said that technology should not seen as a "silver bullet" and that lawyers remain very much in demand.

"At the end of the day, whether you do negotiations as a transactional lawyer, or you do advocacy as a disputes lawyer, that communication or advocacy skill - I think it is something that is not replaceable," he said.

"The use of technology is to make them or the industry a lot more efficient, and to allow them to focus on really high-value work."

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